Thank you for the thorough response TakeruK! It's extremely helpful.
TakeruK wrote:Other professors view their job as more of an instructor than a "CEO" and some of them might really enjoy training complete newbies in X and turn them into experts in X. So if you want to do more in X and have no background in X, you just have to find a good fit!
I am definitely looking for the non CEO type of professors. I guess ones who take undergraduates are, for the most part, not the CEO type.
TakeruK wrote:My anecdote is that I had absolutely no experience at all using telescopes to gather astronomical data when I began grad school. I applied to the best schools for observational astronomy (access to the best telescopes) and wrote in my SOP that I wanted to learn observational astronomy. I was successful, and now I am very happy learning a ton about observational astronomy, even leading observational runs and training others.
That is pretty awesome! I too hope that I will be successful!
TakeruK wrote:Now, with each "X", there are different skills you might learn. For example, with experimental research experience, you might also learn statistical methods; actual hands-on skills; how to manage your resources; how to work as a team; how to use specific pieces of highly specialized equipment, etc. Depending on the project/lab you want to work on/in, some aspects might be more important. e.g. if the experiment requires a lot of fine motor skills to finely tune optics then you might need to demonstrate that.
Thank you for elaborating on some of the skills one acquires. I guess the main reason I made this post is because my friends who are doing experimental research didn't really tell me the skills. They sort of say "I push buttons until something works" or "I code and try to fix bugs because I am trying to simulate X", or "I am building this small part for this big machine in the south pole". However, they all have plenty of prior experience so it all just sounded intimidating.
I guess working in a team is very important, I do not have that experience. Unless if you count me and my advisor being a team
I do think my theory research background provided me with very important skills and i am definitely highlighting those in my SOP. My letters would indicate it as well.
Let's just say that I may have developed a phobia of working in a lab due to a prior experience. :/ I want to get over this really badly... I know the transition will be hard, but i hope to be able to do it
In terms of finding a good fit, I feel like the best way of knowing that is by emailing right? 3/4 professors I emailed replied with very encouraging responses, but they were all theorists. I haven't been successful with getting a reply from an experimentalist yet, but I am still working on it. Maybe I should email the graduate students instead.